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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Making of a Tempeh Ruben Sandwich

There are great vegetarian sandwich's and then there is the Tempeh Ruben, a big open face sandwich that takes a bit of jaw stretching to wrap your mouth around its layers. It is perfect for an at home lunch, as it can get a bit messy and require some finger lickin. I will take you step by step with photos to help guide you through the process. So let's begin with lunch for 2:

2 slices of your favorite whole grain bread, lightly toasted.
6 slices of vegan Almond cheddar cheese

I have used the Berlin Bakery Sourdough Spelt bread for this demonstration because it is my favorite. You can lightly toast the bread and place the cheese on each slice while still warm. This helps the cheese to soften.

Next comes the tempeh. Take an 8 ounce package of tempeh and cut it in half. Remove one half and slice that through the center so you now have 2 squares of tempeh. In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of water to a boil, add a few drops of tamari soy sauce and simmer the 2 tempeh squares f
or about 5 minutes. When done remove and place on the almond cheese while still hot. Now you're melting.

The all important next step is the Russian dressing traditionally used when making a Ruben sandwich. However, for this recipe I prefer to mix a few teaspoons or tablespoons (your choice) with a few teaspoons of spicy salsa and use that for my sauce. Once you have whipped up these two ingredients you can spoon it over the tempeh and then add thick slices of fresh tomato.

Next comes fresh slices of ripe avocado, followed by a mound of raw, live sauerkraut, more dressing if you choose, and then top with a fresh leaf of lettuce. Serve with a knife and fork and a strong napkin. This is a hearty, delicious meal and should be enjoyed slowly and chewed thoroughly. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


There is an old yogic saying that goes something like this, "The secret to a long life is a flexible spine and the digestion of a lion." Unfortunately, many of the people I see as a nutritional counselor and yoga teacher have serious digestive issues. This is often due to years of eating refined and processed food, taking antibiotics without restoring healthy microflora back to the intestines and living a high stress lifestyle. With 80 percent of the immune system located in the digestive system a compromised colon can weaken the whole body.

When the mind and body are under pressure, excess hydrochloric acid is released in the stomach and the core of the body becomes rigid with tension. Your digestive system is only reflecting what is going on in your mind, and what you are putting into your mouth. Both stress and refined, processed, sugar-laden foods create an acid condition in the digestive system. "Dis"-ease grows in an acid condition, whereas optimal health requires a more alkaline/acid balance. I compare it to how the afflictions of our thoughts can create an acid mental condition.

A strong, healthy digestive system requires physical rest, mental calm and fibrous foods. High amounts of stress can cause intestinal disorders by reducing the circulation of blood to the absorptive areas of the bowels. There are a number of things that can be done to heal the digestive system including improving the diet, taking certain herbs that heal intestinal tissue, detoxifying the filtering organs and cleansing the blood. Meditation and yoga have been shown to aid in the treatment of many digestive problems, including colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, acidity, and gastric ulcers.

While meditation helps to calm the stomach, reducing acidity and releasing tension in the large and small intestine, yoga poses help to stimulate the peristaltic action in the intestines, increasing blood flow to the area. At the same time specific poses massage all the internal organs enhancing the body's ability to better absorb nutrients and eliminate waste more effectively. This is due to twisting the body, bending forward, doing backbends, going upside down and sitting on the heels and rounding forward. Seems simple, but according to B.K.S. Iyengar in his book, The Path To Holistic Health, "Health is not a commodity to be bargained for. It has to be earned through sweat."

He goes on to say that each posture is "aimed at purifying and strengthening each organ, bone, and cell of the body." Somewhat different than taking an hour out of your day to exercise, yoga integrates the holistic aspects of mind, body, and spirit into that same hour, with the added benefit of healing your digestive system.

Do you need to focus on any particular poses to target the digestive system? Yes and no. If you are including a variety of poses in your daily practice you should be fine. Make sure to listen to what your body needs rather than trying to force more than your body is willing or able to do. In this way you can unite the body, mind and spirit in a focused moment with balance and integrity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting Your Protein from Indian Dahl

What is it about Indian food that sets my taste buds into a swoon and my mouth burning with delight? Well, it could be the hot peppers, the spices and those heavenly chutneys. Then again it could just be the combination of tastes that make my mouth sing.

Take the traditional Dahl recipe for instance. With this delicious dish you can use a wide variety of lentils to create something different each day. Dahl, sometimes spelled Dal, is the perfect dish for vegetarians and vegans looking for a good protein source with a lot of flavor. And let's not forget the health benefits. Lentils are loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol levels.

One cup of cooked lentils provides you with 17.86 grams of protein and 15.64 grams of fiber. They are a rich source for molybdenum, folate, iron, phosphorus, copper, thiamin and potassium. Plus they are fast cooking and adapt well to many different spices. Pay a visit to an Indian food market where you will be amazed at the variety of lentils, pulses, beans and split peas used to make dahl. Buy a few different types and try them out at home. The basic spice list includes: cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, garlic, ginger and onion. Or you can use a good curry powder with a teaspoon or two of garam masala.

Curry powder is a combination of Indian spices and herbs that can include the spices mentioned above, as well as, fennel seed, and fenugreek. Garam masala, on the other hand, is a combination of ground spices that include cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, star anise, coriander and cumin. It provides the sweet and hot, while the curry adds the savory and spicy. A nice combination when used properly.

I like to use the quick cooking red lentils and pair them with sweet potato, ginger, garlic and coconut milk. Or another favorite is to use mung beans to make dahl. Mung beans are beneficial to the liver and gall bladder, they act as a diuretic, and help reduce swelling in the body. There are 24 grams of protein, 132 grams of calcium and 189 grams of magnesium in 3.5 ounces of cooked mung beans. There is no need to pre-soak these beans as they cook quickly and are easy to digest.
The following two recipes use both the curry and garam masala. They can be made thick and served over rice or thinned with water or stock to make soup. Adapt heat and salt to your tastes.

Spicy Mung Beans in Coconut Milk

Serves 6-8

1 cup mung beans * 4 cups water * 1 onion * 3 cloves garlic * 2 inch piece fresh ginger * 1 hot pepper or 1 tsp. red pepper flakes * 1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala * 1 tablespoon coconut oil * 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) * 1/2 teaspoon sea salt * 5.5 ounces coconut milk

1. Wash and sort through the mung beans removing any stones or other debris.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven bring the mung beans and water to a boil over medium high heat, cover, reduce and allow to simmer until beans become tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, chop the onion, mince the garlic and pepper, peel and mince the ginger.
3. Heat the oil and ghee in a skillet and sauté the vegetables over a medium low heat, stirring from time to time, until onions are tender, about 4 minutes.
4. Add the curry powder and garam masala, stirring well. Cook until the spices release their aroma, about 1-2 minutes.
6. Stir the onion spice mixture into the mung beans. Add a small amount of water to the skillet to “wash” out any remaining oil or spice adhering to the bottom of the pan; and add this to the mung beans.
7. Add the coconut milk and salt to taste, stirring well. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook another 30 minutes or until the beans have broken apart and the flavors well combined. (At this point you could place the mung bean mixture into a heated crockpot and cook on low until ready to serve).

Note: Clarified butter known as GHEE is regular butter that has had the milk solids and water removed leaving behind a pure golden-yellow butterfat. Also known as drawn butter, it has a rich butter flavor with a long shelf life of several months and a much higher smoke point than most oils. You can buy it ready made in an Indian or natural foods market.

Red Lentil Dahl
Serves 6

1 cup red lentils, rinsed * 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped * 1 cup vegetable stock * 1 1/2 cups water * ½ sweet onion, chopped * 2 clove garlic, minced * 2 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled, minced * 1 Tbs. coconut oil * 1 Tbs. ghee * 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk * 1 tsp. curry powder * 1 tsp. garam masala (Indian curry powder) *

1. In a large saucepan combine the lentils, sweet potato, water and stock. Bring to a boil slowly, reduce heat and simmer while preparing the onions,
2. In a skillet heat the oil and ghee. Add the onion and ginger. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 minutes stirring often.
3. Add the garlic and continue to cook another minute.
4. Add both curry powders stirring well to roast the herbs. Careful not to overcook.
5. Keep the heat low, when the aroma is released from the herbs stir the onion mixture into the lentils.
6. Add a small amount of water to the skillet and “wash” the pan then pour the remains into the lentils.
7. Salt to taste and allow tosimmer covered for another 15 minutes.
8. Serve with toasted cashews or peanuts. When not on the Cleanse top with a dollop of sheeps yogurt.